I was reading this question and wondered if there has ever been a design idea which could shield a rover from the 14 day heat and cold cycle when on the surface of the moon. I was imagining some sort of dome-like structure which is retractable or something along those lines. However Im unsure that a dome would help the problem over the course of 14 days. A sleeping bag and tent in antarctica wouldn't be retaining much heat after the first few hours provided no source of internal heat. However- it could also shield it from the sun and let it warm up slower and cool off slower so the expansion is less drastic. Would any of this help a rover live longer on the moon?

I guess the question is- has this ever been considered? If it has- link the article. If it has not- explain why its infeasible (E.G. requires too much insulation, lunar soil not being a good insulator, heat would escape within first 4 hours, etc).


1 Answer 1


Yes, it has been used. Not an external dome, though. It's much easier to cover the rover body in insulation blankets (e.g. MLI) than to deploy an external dome.

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The Lunokhod rovers were covered in insulation. In addition, the lid was open during the lunar day (the inside of the lid was covered in solar cells), but closed at night.

Likewise, the solar panels on the Yutu rover are designed to fold onto the top of the rover to provide insulation.

  • $\begingroup$ Great source on the lid of lunokhod! You wouldnt think theyd bother with closing it unless it was required to be closed for moving/roving because thatd add a point of failure. Totally forgot about the first soviet rover! $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2019 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ Which probes used insulation blankets? Or were you alluding to orbital probes being blanketed on the non-sun side? $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2019 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Oh no this is a great answer Im just trying to picture what thermal blankets would look like and all thats coming to mind is JWST's sun shield and the gold-colored reflective insulation on other probed- but thats for heat. Not sure Ive ever identified cold insulative blankets in any pictures Ive seen (though I easily couldve overlooked it not knowing what i was looking for). Im used to MLI that deals with radiation insulation not protection from temp swings. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2019 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I see. The same material is used in both cases. It can keep the heat out, or keep the heat inside. MLI (thin layers of reflective foil) is often used for this. This takes different appearances, IIRC the Lunokhods had a white outer layer over the insulation, the LEM had a black outer layer, in other cases a yellow (Kapton) outer layer is visible. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jul 21, 2019 at 20:48

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